25 Tips That Will Improve Your Gaming Skills Considerably
For the sake of pushing my limits and challenging myself to write something out of my comfort zone, I decided to think of topics that would go under Video Gaming Self-Help. So, although it sounds cheesy, I decided to research as many ways to improve your gaming skills as I could find and compile them into one ‘handy’ article.
Some of the tips I found seemed quite obvious, while a couple of them struck me as being somewhat clever. So, hopefully, you’ll come out with a couple of interesting new ideas to try. These tips are meant for when you’re playing multiplayer games online or with your friends locally, and you want to get an edge on the competition. They could also be used for really difficult single-player games — the ones that have you throwing your controller at the wall.
Part 1 – Simple Tweaks That Can Make a Big Difference
Turn Down the Music, Raise the Volume on the SFX, and Wear Headphones
You may not realize it but when you listen to music during a game, a small percentage of your brain is actually listening to the music instead of concentrating on the game. Being successful when playing a video game is all about focus and concentration. We’ll speak about getting into the ‘zone’ later, but whatever you can do to eliminate distractions that hinder your concentration, the better. So, by turning off the music, you will be able to focus more completely on the game you’re playing. The worst is playing your own music, because that will definitely distract you and have you humming along. But, even in-game music, which is meant to integrate with the gameplay, consumes a bit of concentration.
If the game gives you the option to mix sound levels, turn down the music and turn up the sound effects. Sound effects can really help to increase your reflexes and reactions as they give you an extra sense, other than seeing, to help you gauge your actions. The ideal is to wear quality headphones, because that will remove a lot of the noise from inside your house and immerse you completely in the game – increasing your focus level.
Make the Screen Brighter
A tip that not many gamers know is that many games are made just a bit dark or muddled to really help colors stand out and provide contrast. Sometimes this provides a certain mood or style, but it doesn’t help you to have an eagle-eye. If you’re playing an FPS and you want to be able to spot someone before they spot you, try adjusting the brightness on your TV so that the colors are really easy to see. Obviously, if you make it too bright, it will defeat the purpose. But fiddle around until the graphics are super ‘obvious’, not super pretty. Yes, it may take away some of the looks of the game, but this is strictly for those who want an edge in winning.
Customize the Controls to Perfection
Many games allow you to tinker with the sensitivities and layout of the controls. Don’t take that for granted. You may be ready to rush into a game and make due with whatever works. But if you actually sit for a few minutes– going into the options, then testing it out in-game, then back to the options and refining it, etc — until you get a perfect level of sensitivity, it will make a subtle but fundamental improvement in your performance that you may not even be aware of.
Buy A More Comfortable Mouse or Controller
Having a mouse or controller that you find comfortable and easy to use can really make a big difference. Many gamers just assume they should stick with the mouse or controller that came in the box and don’t try out the many alternatives that can make a big difference in how comfortable they are. But, the big mistake is that it’s not just about comfort – because that comfort translates directly into how well you play. Next time you’re in your local computer store or gaming store, check out third-party accessories and see which one fits the most snug in your hand. That’s your personal method of control that will lead you to success! And if you have the cash to spend, buy yourself a really comfortable ergonomic mouse.
Part 2 – You’re Not Alone… Learn from Others!
Check Online For Tips
Sometimes you can learn some really interesting tricks that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise by checking online. Every game and sometimes every map has its own strategies and tricks that can be used. Make use of other people’s knowledge. Don’t expect to think of everything yourself.
Watch Videos of Experts Playing
You can learn a lot from watching other people playing on Youtube or streaming video. You’ll see how they react or deal with certain situations and you may discover a new strategy that you never would have thought of yourself. See how they anticipate their opponents moves before they strike and how they react to their opponents once they encounter each other. If you’re a noob to a particular game, this may be the best advice so you won’t have to lose constantly until you learn the ropes of the game.
Don’t Be Afraid to Play With People Better Than You
So often we play with people of similar skill-level or worse because we want to feel good about ourselves. But, often, this actually holds us back. Someone once told me about how he started playing Team Fortress 2 and he couldn’t get a grasp on it. He felt like he was missing something and didn’t know how to improve. He didn’t want to lose so he would play with other newbies, but they all didn’t know what they were doing. He was about to write off the game as being boring and too complicated when he decided to join up with a team that was way better than him. He accepted that he wouldn’t be winning the match, and he tagged along as a medic. While playing with them he watched their strategies and what they were doing to win. He asked his teammates questions and after a few rounds he felt like he had a much better grasp on the game.
In general, playing with people who are better than you can teach you a lot about how to improve your own skills and strategies. It’s kind of like playing chess against a grandmaster. You will most likely lose, but you will also see how he opens the game, how he responds to your moves, and how he closes until checkmate.
Part 3 – Strengthen Your Hand Muscles with these Exercises
Your skills in gaming rely a lot on the muscles in your wrist and fingers. There are two reasons why you’d want to strengthen them. The main reason is actually because someone who games for more than half-hour to an hour will begin to feel strain and less responsiveness in their hands. What many don’t realize is how much this actually affects their gaming skills once the strain sets in. So, ideally, strengthening your hand and wrist muscles will not only make your muscles more reflexive and quick to react, it will also prevent that exhaustion from setting in.
Tennis Ball Squeeze
Perform the following exercises ten times for each set, preferably three times a day. As you build up strength you can increase the repetitions. Begin this exercise by holding a tennis ball in the palm of your hand. Squeeze the tennis ball as hard as you can without causing yourself pain. Hold that squeeze for 5 seconds. Repeat this ten times.
Begin this exercise by putting your thumb and index finger up together. Squeeze your thumb and index finger together as hard as possible without causing yourself pain and hold the squeeze for five seconds. Then move on to the middle finger and thumb and repeat the exercise. Move on to each finger, so the thumb squeezes together with each of them. Repeat the whole exercise three times, so each finger gets three repetitions.
Place your hand palm-up, as if you were asking someone for money. Squeeze all the fingers together and the thumb also should be aligned with fingers, squeezing in on them. While keeping your fingers as straight as possible, squeeze your fingers and thumb together as hard as you can. Hold for five seconds and repeat ten times.
Finger and Wrist Stretches
1. Stand up and extend your right arm in front of you, with the palm of your hand facing down. Using your left hand, pull back each finger and hold it, one by one, until you’ve stretched each finger. Make sure not to pull back too hard because this could damage your wrist. But it should be enough to feel the stretch in your wrist.
2. Once you’ve done each finger individually, stretch back all of them at once. This should help you stretch open your palm. Hold it for a few seconds and repeat the exercise a few times.
3. Now that you’ve extended your fingers, it’s time to do your thumb. Pull back on your thumb and stretch it towards your wrist. Next, pull forward and down on your thumb. Again, this will stretch your wrist in the opposite direction. Finish these finger exercises by making a tight fist and slowly opening it, stretching all your fingers out as far as they can go.
4. Put your palms together with the fingers facing upwards as if you were in a praying stance. Press the palms together strongly while holding your fingers straight. Keeping the base of your palms together, slowly lower your hands until your arms are like one long horizontal line. Try and take your palms down even further, with your fingers and base of the palms still held together. Go down as far as you can and hold it. You should feel the stretch in your wrists and the insides of your fingers. Hold for a few seconds and then repeat.
Part 4 – Getting “In The Zone”
One of the most crucial aspects of playing well is getting in the zone. If someone is playing in a professional gaming tournament, they better know how to get into the zone if they want to stand a chance at winning. So, what does it feel like to be in the zone? Former sprinter Mark Richardson talked about being in the zone in the winter of 1996:
‘It’s a very strange feeling. It’s as if time slows down and you see everything so clearly. You just know that everything about your technique is spot on. It just feels so effortless; it’s almost as if you’re floating across the track. Every muscle, every fibre, every sinew is working in complete harmony and the end product is that you run fantastically well.’ – Extract from ‘Mind Games,’ Grout and Perrin, 2006.
Professional athletes work with trainers for a long time trying to learn how to get in the zone. The opposite of being in the zone is being in a slump. The common denominator between the two is that it all starts in your head – with the way you talk to yourself internally. When someone is in the zone, they stop evaluating their performance, and begin positively and optimistically believing in their ability to win. The more relaxed someone is, the more their body reacts in a natural way. When someone feels negatively, and believes they’re going to lose, their body goes into a fight-or-flight response, releasing serotonin and adrenaline. While this makes you feel stronger and quicker, your ability to move and react with precision and fine-tuned movements is lowered. So, the less chemical interference you have going on in your body, the more naturally you will move and react. So, what can you do to increase the chances of being in the zone?
Pay Attention To Your Body’s Signals
Before you play, make sure to eat properly. There are many gamers who play for many hours, forgetting that they have to eat or use the bathroom. The longer your body is hungry, the more agitated your body gets, causing you to lower performance in your gaming. When your bladder is full, half your brain is going towards using your bladder muscles to ‘hold it in.’ It’s not a smart move. We know you feel engrossed, but go take care of your business! Also, if it’s five in the morning and you’re playing online, don’t expect to be as sharp as a knife. The more sleep-deprived you are, the less alert your body will be. If you start hallucinating, it may or may not be part of the horror game you’re playing. Try sleeping for a few hours and that cool ‘horror-feature’ may not actually be there when you return.
Stay Away From Sugar, Caffeine, and Alcohol
Gaming can be done in all sorts of different circumstances. If you’re having a party with friends, sure, go ahead and eat some candy and drink a few beers. But, remember, that if it’s more important for you to win against your friends than to have a fun time, you should let your friends do the drinking and snacking while you secretly maintain your body’s equilibrium. This will give you a definite advantage. Alcohol will make your nervous system more dull and sugar will make your body process the alcohol even slower. On its own, sugar will make your nervous system more jittery as your insulin levels fluctuate.
Another gaming circumstance could be when there is a serious multiplayer game about to take place. Some gamers think that if they will take coffee they will be more alert. In fact, the opposite happens. It’s similar to the adrenaline effect. If you are sleepy, you will become more awake, but your nervous system will become more agitated. The caffeine speeds up your heart-rate your body will react as if you’re running a small marathon. For precision movements and reaction time, this is a bad idea.
Being in Control of your Psychological State
This is main point of being in the zone. We are trying to reach peak performance by eliminating all obstacles internally- physically and psychologically. Now that we’ve made sure your body is ready, we must prepare your mind. The most crucial point is to learn how to handle defeat, and more importantly, how to minimize the negative emotions you associate with defeat in advance. When your mind thinks that losing is something very bad or negative, it will make your body react as if it’s in danger. Instead of letting your mind do its job at playing as best as it could, it turns on extra emotion that will psyche you up to try and win no matter what. Ironically, this actually will harm your chances at winning, rather than helping them. Sometimes we see how someone who has nothing to lose actually plays better. That’s because their mind isn’t interfering. It’s letting their reactions happen as naturally as possible.
So, how do we minimize the power of ‘defeat’ in our minds? We have to use the common CBT method used by psychologists. Try and think of what it feels like to lose. Why does it make you feel so bad? Is it because your friends will laugh at you? Is it because you won’t be considered as “good” of a gamer in front of your friends? Or maybe you personally won’t think of yourself as such a “good” gamer anymore. We have to find a way to diffuse these thoughts and prove to ourselves that they aren’t accurate.
– If your friends will laugh at you or gloat about themselves, try and think of a way you can respond that will maintain your dignity and self-respect. If you find a way to respond to the loss without being a sore loser, you will feel more okay with losing.
– If you feel like you won’t be looked at as such a ‘good’ gamer, try and think how winning in a multiplayer game doesn’t define everything about you. You have other things that are good about you, other talents, and fun parts of your personality. And even in gaming itself, you may still be good at single-player games or other multiplayer-games. Some people are better at certain games over others. Plus, just because you lost this match, it doesn’t mean you’ll lose the next match. There are so many different factors that go into every match. The odds just weren’t in your favor, or maybe you made one wrong move that was a mistake. It doesn’t mean you will always lose.
Finding the specific thought or thoughts that make you feel bad about losing and defusing it will go a long way to clearing your mind and putting you in a positive and comfortable mental state.
Don’t Play When You’re Stressed-Out or Depressed
A lot of people escape into video games way more when they feel down or stressed out. It can be a good way of calming yourself down and having fun. But, you should realize that being in a negative state will affect your gaming. So, if you feel bad about yourself or anxious and then you start losing in online multiplayer, you will begin to feel even worse. And the worse you feel, the worse you will perform, starting a vicious cycle. Be aware of how you are feeling when you begin to play a multiplayer game. It’s always best to play when you’re in a great mood and feel like you can do anything.
Don’t Let Yourself Get to the Point of Throwing Your Controller at the Wall
Sometimes you play a level over and over again but it proves too difficult. The more you lose, the more frustrated you get. The more frustrated you get, the harder you try. But, instead of helping, this actually lowers your chances of beating the difficult level. Instead of letting yourself get to the point of breaking your controller, you should take a five or ten minute break. The first thing you should do is walk around your house and take a drink of water. (Don’t drink juice, coke, or coffee, as that will make it worse.) Drinking will relax you and calm your body. If you need the bathroom, go do it now. Try and change the subject in your mind. Maybe talk to someone for a few minutes or watch a few minutes of TV. When you come back to the game, try and play a different level that you are good at first. You need your mind to feel like it had a change of pace from the level for a bit. You’re still associating negative emotions with the level. When you come back to that level, you will be able to perform better.
Sometimes you have such difficulty with a level or a boss that it requires even more of a break. In such a circumstance, you should take a full break from the game. Play a different game and don’t go back to it until the next day. Coming at it 24 hours later will make it feel fresh again and you will perform much better. Plus, the time off from the game allows your brain to imprint the muscle-memory that you will need to beat the level. You may find it’s considerably easier the second time around and you will wonder why it was so hard in the first place.
Learn a level off-by-heart
One of the best ways you can prepare your brain for a multiplayer game is by playing a specific level until you’ve mastered it and then choosing that stage when playing against your friends. In a way, this is tricking your friends without actually cheating. For example, if you’re playing a racing game, play the level against the computer 20 to 30 times until you know every inch of the level in your sleep. You should know where the turns are, where the items are, were the shortcuts are, and where there are good spots to pass your opponents. When you finally play against your friends, casually choose the level you worked at and watch as you nonchalantly move into first place without breaking a sweat. This is similar to being in the zone because your brain feels confident in itself and it doesn’t fear defeat. The same thing can be done in a map for a strategy game or an FPS.
Part 5 – How to Improve Specific Game Skills
First we’ll look at games you can play to better your skills and then we’ll look at other ways you can train yourself. By playing games that have a hard challenge in a specific skill over and over again, you can learn to improve overall in that skill.
Improve Your Ability to Make Precise Movements – Super Meat Boy
When you want to develop a specific skill, like precise movement, it’s not helpful to train with a game that only has a small focus on precision amongst other skills. You want your brain to learn all about precision and to recognize how to deal with precision in games. For this you need to work with a game that has a pure concentration of precision challenges without other elements getting the way. That way your brain realizes, “Hey, this requires me to make very subtle and precise movements. I better learn and adapt in order to overcome the challenge.” Once you’ve mastered it in a game that’s all about precision, it will be much easier to apply the skill to other games that don’t require as much skill.
The game I think would work the best to teach you to make precise movements is Super Meat Boy. It’s a game that is really back-to-the-basics of precision-based challenges. It has a retro-gaming level of difficulty and will really force you to learn controlled movements to move forward in the game. I’ve seen many gamers who love the game and others who hate it because they can’t get far. If that’s you, it’s time to apply yourself to the challenge and over time you will see yourself improving. Don’t give up if you die a lot. Keep trying and eventually your muscle memory will kick in and you’ll get better.
Improve Your Timing – VVVVVV
Another important skill in gaming is timing. Reflexes in general can be attributed to your timing, and if it’s off, you will never see yourself get to the pinnacle of your gaming skills. I really can’t overstate how important it is that you put ‘time’ into improving your timing. Games so often dare you to make a jump when it’s a split second too early or too late. They want you to fall into a gaping abyss. And it’s your job to get a feel for exactly the right moment to make your move. Of course, once you move it will have to be precise, and this step assumes that you mastered the previous step of precision.
The game that I think will teach you timing the best without getting you distracted by anything else is VVVVVV. Every screen in the game is about timing your flips and movements without hitting the spikes or the obstacles. There aren’t any pits to fall into; just spikes and enemies. The game has a nice difficulty level to it that will test your timing to its limits.
Improve Your Ability to Think Quickly – Tetris
Very often a game will throw something at you without giving you much of a chance to prepare. You’ll need the ability to instantly make a judgement call and pull off a smart move. For example, games often make use of an action-event that suddenly require you to press a button during an event that you didn’t see coming. The ability to be quick on your toes will keep you in good stead if you find a way to improve that ability.
I think the best game to train your head for thinking quickly is Tetris or many other similar puzzle games. As the pieces start raining down on you during the higher levels, you won’t be given more than a half-second to figure out where to place the pieces. But even as you finish sorting one piece in its right place, the next piece is already on the move. For minutes at a time you’ll be forced to keep your head thinking quick without a break. That intensity of quick-thinking will help develop the ability for other games, as well.
Learning to Be Patient and Hard-Working – Dark Souls
Many games require that you pull in a lot of hard work and skill together in order to succeed. The greater your patience and efforts, the more you are rewarded. Many RPGs and MMORPGS reward your efforts for exploring, building up equipment, leveling up, etc. If you want a game that will push your patience, effort, and skills to their limits, you should play Dark Souls. It will require you to be both methodical, persistent, and strategic, in order to survive. If you can beat Dark Souls, you will have an easier time with any other game you play that requires persistence and patience.
How to Solve the Puzzles in Video Games -Legend of Zelda
There are literally thousands of games that throw in puzzles as obstacles to make it more difficult to advance in a game. For example, you may have to find a key or a hidden door. You may have to collect a specific amount of something in order to move on. Or the puzzles may be more challenging, requiring you to think hard about how to proceed.
Almost all the puzzles in games are taken from the mold of the Zelda games. Even Nintendo’s own games, like Metroid: Prime, borrow a lot from the puzzle-solving of the Zelda series. If you’re new to playing more hardcore video games and most of your experience has been on mobile systems or casual games, you should play some Zelda games to get a feel for how the rest of the industry also crafts their puzzles. A game like Professor Layton also has a big focus on logical puzzles but the rest of the industry doesn’t copy the Layton kind of puzzles. Rather, it’s mostly inspired by the puzzle-heavy dungeons found in the Zelda games.
Part 6 – Improve Your Hand-Eye Coordination
Outside of actually playing video games there are some exercises you can do that will help you match up your hands and eyes- what you see and how accurately your hands respond to what you see.
Tennis Racket exercise
Take a tennis racket or a table-tennis paddle and use the appropriate ball to bounce over and over up into the air without letting it drop. As you get more comfortable try alternating between your forehand and backhand with each time you hit the ball.
Racket Sports or Handball
Racket sports in general are known for requiring constant hand-eye coordination as your eyes track the ball and your hands move quickly to keep up with the ball’s trajectory. Similarly, one doesn’t need a racket, and instead can play handball with a friend. Your hand is essentially the “paddle” and it still requires the same intensity of hand-eye coordination.
Juggling is an amazing way to learn hand-eye coordination. Keeping all three balls up in the air at the same time without letting them drop is a feat that some find easy and others have a hard time with. If you find it hard to do, then it’s probably a great skill to try and master over time as it will give you a very concrete way to improve your hand-eye coordination. This will no doubt transfer over to your gaming hand-eye coordination too.
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